Originally published in the Charlotte Business Journal – 5/23/08
There are many challenges associated with starting a small business. While many businesses succeed, there are many that fail. The biggest reason companies fail is that they miss their target market and neglect to showcase their value and benefits that set them a part from the competition. With a new or existing business, time and money can be limited, but it’s important to implement a marketing strategy that will move your company forward. Here are ten strategies that can provide long-term sales success even on a small budget.
Find opportunities to network with other business owners and people in your target market. It’s inexpensive and beneficial in helping you establish relationships. Keep in mind that networking is not the same as selling. Networking is all about relationships. If you are constantly in sales-mode at networking functions you will not be successful at establishing relationships.
Increase your visibility in the community by becoming active in your local church, community or industry organizations. Choose an organization that meets your passion and interests and you will not only bring a lot of value to the organization, but will benefit personally as well.
Create a Web site
A great Web site should convey professionalism and expertise. Most people go to the Web when searching for a product or service. You want to ensure that your website is well optimized to be found and when people visit your site, it readily conveys who and what you are and the image you want to convey.
E-mail campaigns and newsletters
Get business and industry lists and send informative communication to prospects and vendors who may use your service or refer you to others. It’s important that this communication provide information on the value and benefits of your services without being blatant sales pitches.
A cost-efficient way to compete in your industry is to start quality referral networks. For instance, if you are a Web site designer, you may partner with a marketing company to offer search engine optimization for the Web sites you design for your clients. This allows you to leverage strengths in order to offer more to your clients.
Develop a 30-second “commercial”
This 30-second “commercial” includes who you are, what you do and the value you provide to your customers. This “commercial” can be used when networking and gives you the ability to quickly and effectively communicate your business. In networking functions, people want to know who you are and what you do. Having a 30-second “commercial” allows you to provide this information concisely and effectively.
Engage in public relations
Submit news releases regularly to the media and news wire services to communicate your latest business news, clients and opportunities. Regular media exposure keeps you top of mind when your customers need or want your product or service. It can also help improve your website position by creating important incoming links.
Do pro-bono work
Offering your product or services to an in-need organization or charity is good for business for a variety of reasons. The motto “Give and you will receive” is very applicable.
If you have excess capacity or inventory you could use a Barter Exchange to find clients and trade for travel or advertising. Sometimes organizations are happy to trade memberships, goods and advertising in exchange for your product or service. If it’s mutually beneficially for both sides, then it may be worthwhile for you to consider.
Have a vision
If you can’t envision what your company is or will be, no one else will either. The components of a vision include core values, core purpose or mission and long-term organizational goal. Once you have determined your vision, all your business decisions will reflect this and allow your business to adapt to change more easily.
Successful start-up companies have one thing in common: their market growth was linked to a focus on a well-defined target market and marketing strategy. The firms developed and delivered products and services that met customer needs in selected market segments. They had solid value propositions, and they were continually reassessing their offerings to maintain a competitive advantage. Focus on building trust, reputation and leadership, even at a small scale, and you’ll see results.
Lou Amico is founder and president of LA Management Company, a multi-media marketing firm based in Denver, North Carolina. He can be reached at 704-560-6274 or visit LAManagementCo.com for more information.